Zakopane is a polarizing destination, with some embracing its charm and others dismissing it as overly commercialized. However, there is no denying that Zakopane is the ideal place to stay for anyone planning to visit the Western or High Tatras. The city is bustling with tourists all year round, from the summer and winter seasons to the quieter spring and fall months.
I won’t go into detail about the hiking routes in Zakopane. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are several Smaki Podhala stores in the city. They offer their own craft beer, such as Giewońciak, Kozicka, Zbójeckie and others. It’s important to note, however, that these beers are usually made to order and their origins are unclear. Judging by online reviews, these local brands tend to be weaker in taste and quality.
On the plus side, Smaki Podhala stores also carry a number of craft beers, mostly from Poland. So if you’re a beer lover, be sure to explore their selection beyond the local brands.
Watra Brewery in Zakopane
The Watra Brewery in Zakopane is conveniently located next to Krupówki Street on the ground floor of an old, small apartment building. The brewery is styled as a classic highland inn, complete with wooden decor, and offers three different rooms for customers to choose from.
↳ Make sure to check out my guide to ALL attractions in Zakopane, so you don't overlook anything interesting: 66 Best Attractions in Zakopane 2023 – What to Do – Interesting Places
- Pictures and Google Location: Click Here
You can sit in a small room by one of the two entrances, another small room by the brewhouse and grill, or a larger room where dance parties and concerts are occasionally held right next to the fermenters. I chose to sit outside, at a slightly wobbly table.
The service can be a little slow in taking your order, but the food and beer are served promptly. The food selection leans towards classic Highlander cuisine, with a few international dishes thrown in for good measure. While the food isn’t particularly impressive, the portions are generous and satisfying, making it a great option for hungry travelers.
Craft Beer Selection in The Brewery
The beer selection, on the other hand, is mostly classic and straightforward. We’re not sure if Watra has experimented with different styles. Their focus seems to be on serving traditional beers that appeal to a diverse clientele.
One of the highlights of visiting the brewery is perusing the brochures and information boards. You’re likely to come across some quirky errors and oddities. For example, the brewery claims to brew a decoction called wort from mountain water and selected malt. In fact, water and malt are first made into a mash, which is then filtered to obtain wort.
They also claim to brew the wort twice, adding hops during the second boil. This is a highly unusual and unlikely technique. Furthermore, the aging process of the beer, which they claim takes four weeks, is actually shorter than what most home brewers do.
The beer is served at far too low a temperature, despite what the menu says. For example, the menu states that the Helles is served at 10 degrees Celsius, but it seems to arrive at the table colder than that. Another oddity is that the brewery uses the German Reinheitsgebot on the beer menu, while offering a beer that doesn’t comply with this law, namely Miodowe.
All in all, the Watra Brewery is a nice, traditional highland brewery that can accommodate even the largest groups of beer lovers. However, the quality of the beer could be improved to match the atmosphere and aesthetics of the place.
Types of Craft Beers You Can Taste
During my visit to the Watra Brewery in Zakopane, I had the opportunity to taste several of their locally brewed beers. Here are our thoughts on each of them:
- Helles: The Helles was more bitter than we expected, despite the menu description claiming it was milder. The bitterness overpowered any distinct flavors, and the aroma was unremarkable. It felt a little too heavy and dense for our liking.
- Wheat: The wheat beer had a noticeable bubblegum aroma, and the flavor was smooth and velvety with a reasonable amount of bitterness. However, it left us wanting more as it was a bit too bland and unremarkable.
- March: Despite being described as the most hoppy of all the beers, „Marcowe” had a heavy malt flavor with hints of bread and cooked vegetables. Surprisingly, it was still more enjoyable and drinkable than the other beers we tried.
- Honey: As someone who doesn’t usually enjoy honey beers, we were pleasantly surprised by Miodowe. The addition of buckwheat honey was well balanced, providing a subtle sweetness and a pleasant, short-lived bitterness. It was well-crafted and didn’t overpower the other flavors, making it a standout among the beers we tasted.
Other Places with Craft Beer in Zakopane
First things first: Bąkowo Zohylina is not a brewery. Rather, they offer beers made to order from a Czech brewery. But that’s not what makes this restaurant so special. In fact, it’s one of the best restaurant I’ve ever been to in Zakopane.
There are two Bąkowo locations in the city: Wyźnio and Niźnio, 800 meters apart. While we only managed to find a seat at Wyźnio (reservations are recommended), both locations have received rave reviews on Google.
- Pictures and Google Location: Bąkowo Zohylina Wyźnio
- Pictures and Google Location: Bąkowo Zohylina Niźnio
The menu has something for everyone, including a children’s menu, but be warned – this is a meat lover’s paradise. The decor is beautifully done, with an ambience designed to resemble an authentic shepherd’s hut. While there are a few religious icons interspersed among the stuffed animals and antlers, it only adds to the charm.
A talented highland band provides entertainment in the evenings. The service can be a little lacking, though, with long waits between courses and dirty plates piling up. But that’s a minor drawback compared to the overall experience.
Bąkowo Zohylina offers two beer options: light and dark. We rate the dark beer a 2, as it’s far too sweet, with a caramel flavor that lacks bitterness. The label reveals the use of glucose-fructose syrup, which may account for the overly sweet taste.
On the other hand, we rate the light beer a 4. It has a solid, herbal bitterness that lingers a bit. The aroma is malty and hoppy, with a hint of butteriness typical of Czech pilsners.
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